Commentary

A Video Format That Lets You Layer More Info All Around It

One picture might be worth a thousands words. One video imbedded with other information might be worth a lot more than that.

That's the idea behind Storygami, a London-based start-up that cleverly gives users a way to get added information as the video plays by layering in-frame links to related stories or data and biographies. It even makes tweeting easy from within the video itself.

It’s an idea that’s journalistic in its inception, but has some interesting commercial uses too. Storygami uses HTML5, so it’s adaptable to smartphone and tablet use, too.

I used those links above on purpose. As a reader, you could have stopped along the way to read each of them, adding a lot of information to the basic frame of this story. In a visual way, Storygami seems to work the same way.

“Yes, that is a good analogy,” said Heidi Lindvall, the co-CEO, in an email exchange with her from Berlin last week, where she was at a business event. “It’s something that has been possible with text for a long time but just hasn't worked very well for video.”

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She said while working at a previous video business, “we often had clients present us with an in-depth report or a story and our job became to make a short video on the subject that their viewers would watch. This is a very hard task as attention spans have gotten shorter, and it is hard to engage audiences beyond two minutes while still packing the video with enough context.”

The Storygami format adds places to insert that content with clickable, in-frame additions that, for a journalistic or branding campaign, could offer images, statistics or take a reader to longer, fuller videos.

Thomson Reuters, Al Jazeera, Virgin Media and Unilever have used Storygami, and as it leaves the beta phase in April, it’s been using 300 client testers. Lindvall is coming to San Francisco this week for more business related meetings. “We have a huge market on that side of the bond,” she says.

Some of Storygami’s early clients are using it for “product videos where layers with product specs, images and articles come in handy. Start-ups for example can use Storygami for Website videos and crowdfunding campaigns to add layers such as ‘About Us,’ ‘See our Products,’ ‘Our Portfolio’ and ‘Contact’ links. Brands have  successfully used Storygami for internal communications and training videos, but also for their marketing videos allowing viewers to sign up to their newsletter and find out more about the company and their latest news.”

Lindvall, raised in Finland, and co-founder Guy Gunaratne, from Great Britain, have an unusual business background. They are human-rights journalists--who started as student journalists--and in 2009 formed the nucleus of what would later become a company called Codoc.

Their documentary, “The Truth That Wasn’t There” about the chaotic aftermath of bloody civil war in Sri Lanka, was picked up by Amnesty International and shown on college campuses around the nation. After that, they filmed about abducted child soldiers in Uganda and press freedom in Guatemala.

She told The Next Web.com “We’re probably the only start-up founders who in a previous life used to earn a living walking around war zones and minefields.” (She wandered into an active minefield one sleepy morning in Sri Lanka. A frantic military man guided her and a co-worker back safely.)

And it would seem, one adventure led to the other. If you go to Vimeo to see a trailer for that documentary, you’ll be led directly to another video from Lindvall and Gunaratne. That one was part of a pitch for an early version of Storygami, aimed for a competition in which one of the prizes was a pitch invitation with Virgin’s Sir Richard Branson. They won, and he’s been fan, and client, ever since.

“This was a great opportunity, and we got some great feedback from Richard and after this, Virgin Media commissioned our first interactive Web series,” Lindvall says. “Richard Branson hasn't personally invested in Storygami, but we are part of the Virgin Media Pioneers network. We've been lucky enough to meet him many times since then and show him the progress of Storygami. We also have many Virgin companies, such as Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Media and Virgin Media Business, as our clients.”

pj@mediapost.com

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